Friday, April 23, 2010

Thompson Catches a Falling Star in First Round...Again

Ted Thompson has to be wondering how he struck gold twice in six years.

In 2005, Thompson ran his first draft as GM of the Packers, and while pundits dreamed of players named Erasmus James or Matt Jones to fall to Green Bay at pick #24, no one was more surprised to see one-time #1 overall candidate Aaron Rodgers free-fall out of the top ten and into Thompson’s lap.

None of us can complain much about how that pick has turned out for the Packers in the long run, but last night, history may have repeated itself.  As we concerned ourselves about names like Jerry Hughes or Devin McCourty, Thompson had to be tickled to find top 10 talent Bryan Bulaga, one of the top-rated offensive tackles, still sitting on the board when the Packers’ went on the clock at #23.

Ironically enough, many of us in the chatrooms and live blogs were calling for Thompson to actually trade up to get Bulaga in the middle of the teens.  Good things come to those who wait, and kudos to Thompson for being patient (and likely working the phones to find where other teams’ interests were heading).

I have often detracted the opinions of others who declare Thompson’s selection of Aaron Rodgers as a genius move.  In fact, I’ve called it a no-brainer…when gold falls in your lap, do you pick it up and put it in your pocket?  But I have to admit there was a level of uncertainty as we waited for the Packers to bring their pick up to the podium?  What is wrong with Bulaga?  Why is he dropping?  Do the GM’s all know something we don’t?

In fact, some folks began speculating on Balaga’s medical history, insinuating that he may have a neurological disorder.  While I haven’t been able to find much to corroborate that as truth, it does go to prove that certain players may plummet in the draft, simply from one team watching other teams passing on him, and figuring he must be damaged goods. 

So, while it does seem like a no-brainer, I’m sure there was a bit of tenseness at taking the falling star, a guy who was once cited as the most overrated player in the draft.  He wasn’t on a lot of our radars, because we never expected him to make it to #23.

So what did the Packers get with this pick:  an Iowa farmboy that looks the part of offensive tackle, reminding you ever so slightly of Adam Timmerman without quite as severe of a flattop.  He was the Big Ten Lineman of the Year last year and a second-team All-American.  He was the fourth tackle taken, and obviously has a couple more blemishes than perhaps some of the men taken before him.

He fits the ol’ Packer Zone Blocking mentality, which means they love their linemen to be flexible.  Bulaga can play either tackle position and could even sub in at guard.  He’s a big man:  315 pounds and 6’5”, but only 33 inch arms.  There’s some question as to his athleticism and his ability to go against the speed rushers, but there is confidence in his ability to run block.

If there is a dark side to all of this, it is that Thompson has drafted ten offensive linemen in his first five drafts, and still has been unable to come up with a competent replacement for Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, who went from penciled out of the lineup last year to some big-time contract extensions this offseason.  Filling your line with project players instead of studs can come back to haunt you, and the number of times Aaron Rodgers was running for his life last season is a testament to the theory that standing pat may not be enough in 2010.

Bryan Bulaga may not end up being a Pro Bowler, but the Packers invested a top pick onto a top-ranked talent that should upgrade one side of their offensive line for years to come.  If nothing else, we finally have someone for Tauscher or Clifton to hand off the baton to when their tenure is done.

No comments: